Name in the News: Ed Stone (Weekly Editorial Column, December 7, 2018)

/, In The News/Name in the News: Ed Stone (Weekly Editorial Column, December 7, 2018)

Ed Stone, executive director of the Thirty Meter Telecope, has seen plans diverted by the course of history long before an uprising over Hawaiian cultural and environmental concerns threatened to up-end this latest project atop Mauna Kea. His own career path, in fact, took a slight swerve nearly from the start.

“I thought I would be doing nuclear physics,’ he said, given that era’s intense interest in atomic power. “I was in my second year at the University of Chicago. But then in October 1957, Sputnik was launched.”

So it turned out to be space physics that consumed his academic and professional attention and much of his personal life, too — though Stone’s wife, two daughters and two grandsons are also in that star-filled viewscreen.

Formerly director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stone also oversaw the 10-meter W.M. Keck telescopes on Hawaii island. Stone is still a physics professor and vice provost for special projects at the California Institute of Technology.

And now that the permit for the TMT project has been upheld by the Hawaii Supreme Court, there’s hope that years of delay might be coming to an end — although continuation of protests seems a certainty.

The TMT is not the first project that Stone, 82, has pursued as a boon to science. His specialization lies in building instruments for the study of space, and in 1972 he became the chief scientist for the Voyager. Having gathered data from Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, the spacecraft continues exploration of space between the stars.

The hope now, Stone said, is that TMT can persuade critics of its value to Hawaii. Beyond the creation of jobs, this is measured in initiatives such as the THINK Fund, contributing more than $1 million annually for the past four years to Hawaii island school programs.

“We believe we can all coexist on the mountain, take care of it and share in its stewardship,” he said.

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